Touchstone is committed to becoming Dementia friendly, and in recent months we have been focusing on what changes we can make to make our sites easy for people with dementia to feel relaxed in. This has involved fitting new carpets and brightly coloured toilet seats, which can be helpful for people with dementia, as it is common for a person’s visual perception to be affected and similar coloured floors and walls can appear to merge, which can be very confusing. By having different coloured toilet seats and carpets, we can ensure that people with dementia have a clear awareness of their surroundings. We have also ensured that all rooms have signage in bright colours and clear font; labelling things clearly can help reduce confusion and anxiety for someone with dementia.
Touchstone is continuing to support people with dementia through the BME Dementia Service. This is our service dedicated to supporting people from BME backgrounds with dementia, and their carers and families. We know that people from BME backgrounds have specific difficulties when it comes to dementia. For example, in five South Asian languages, there is no word for dementia, and due to this there is a lot of misunderstanding around the disease. This misunderstanding has meant that people go misdiagnosed for longer and symptoms are mistakenly understood to be a normal part of ageing. Our BME Dementia Service works hard to raise awareness of dementia in BME communities, through providing talks at religious and community spaces, and offering support for people who are affected. We also understand that people from BME backgrounds are more likely to experience culturally specific challenges and stigma associated with dementia, and we work hard to reduce the barriers to accessing support and reduce the stigma in the community.
This year, the BME Dementia Service has increased the Dementia Café from once a month to twice a month, and we have been working hard to produce a programme of activities suitable for the whole group to come together, socialise and engage in activities which are beneficial for keeping the brain active and supporting health and wellbeing. We have also used this to raise awareness of dementia through our recent Hamari Yaadain play in partnership with West Yorkshire Playhouse. This play was a brilliant opportunity in which the life stories of our Dementia Café members were showcased through a mainstream platform as part of the Every Third Minute Festival.
The BME Dementia Service’s newest team member, Georgina, talks about her experience of joining the team and learning how to support BME people with dementia and their carers:
Since joining the BME Dementia Service, I have learnt a lot about the challenges faced by people with dementia and their carers, with special regard for those coming from BME backgrounds. For me, the biggest thing to remember is to be patient and kind. I always keep in mind that a person with dementia hasn’t always had this disease, and it can be difficult to come to terms with, both for the person diagnosed and their families too. I love seeing people with dementia living rich, happy lives, socialising and contributing to their communities, and this is made possible by great support from families, carers and the BME Dementia Service.
Through this role I have also become a Dementia Friend, and from this I learnt that it is essential that we all take steps to include people with dementia in the community in any way we can. Dementia is a complex and progressive disease, but with the right support people can continue to live their lives and enjoy everyday. My action this Dementia Action Week will be to start conversations with someone new about dementia every day, to keep raising awareness and encourage others to take steps to create dementia friendly communities where people with dementia and their carers feel supported.